• Martine Baboin, co-owner, frenchclass. (Supplied)
Organisations like Alliance Francaise dominate the French language tutoring sector - so how does a boutique business compete?
By
18 Jun - 5:35 PM 

In the charming backstreets of Sydney's Paddington, students file into a small French language school.

The 'school' is just a room really, a space behind the home Martine Baboin shares with her partner, Miriam Macpherson.

Martine has been teaching French for over 30 years and it's a job she says she still loves.

"You never stop learning, you never stop getting better," she says. "This is the magic of teaching,"

At her business, frenchclass, she holds private lessons and group classes with a maximum of eight students per session.

It's an intensely personal classroom experience, something she says differentiates her in the market. So too, does her unique teaching style.

"I don't teach things like bonjour, bonsoir, s'il vous plait - I don't teach things that you know or that you can find on the Internet," Martine explains. "I teach things more on the grammar point of view."

Her location in Sydney's fashionable eastern suburbs is also a major draw, with terrace houses, boutique shops and lush greenery all along her Paddington street.

“When we first arrived here, of course, I was completely taken by the fact that it looks so much like a French little village and I immediately felt at home... I think this is what seduces my students the most, to have a very authentic French school.”

Martine's biggest challenges and triumphs have come at times of crisis. During the global financial crisis in 2008, she worried students would stop spending on French lessons.

"On the contrary, my classes were very full at the time. [Students] thought 'okay, we cannot go to France, let's go to frenchclass in Paddington and we'll have a bit of French conversation to keep going and feel French!"

And during every terrorist attack in France, Martine says there's a notable spike in inquiries.

"Because France is a country that people, they really love, and it is deep in their hearts. And when they see [such attacks], they feel solidarity and they come to learn French and they plan to go to France too."

Her advice to other small business owners is simple: "always focus and never give up and believe in what you are doing."

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